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Far from meaningless game for Bradley's men

Edinburgh, embarrassingly "nilled" in their first two Heineken Cup matches, could have fallen apart in October.

Some of the subsequent signs, too, were far from good.

Two more defeats followed in the RaboDirect Pro12 – the first at home and the second another heavy beating – while their players formed the nucleus of the Scotland team whose autumn Test failures cost Andy Robinson his job in charge of the national team.

During that campaign there was also the strange, and sad, episode which brought an end to the international career of their most experienced player, Allan Jacobsen.

If Roddy Grant, the former club captain, is to be believed, though, Edinburgh have come through it all individually and collectively strengthened, as demonstrated by the back-to-back PRO12 victories over the Ospreys, the reigning champions, and Connacht which preceded today's meeting with Racing Metro.

"The way we lost those first two [Heineken Cup] games was unacceptable and totally embarrassing for us," the flanker said. "To have no points scored and all those tries against us was hugely disappointing.

"After last year having gone so well, it was a double disappointment. However, the strange thing for people who can't see us all the time is that, even when we were on the losing run, we were still a really tight as a team. There was no bickering.

"Apart from being in a dark place because of the losses, we were still really tight and really confident, which is great to be able to say. That has certainly helped us to come out of it and get the two wins. For guys who were not involved in the Scotland squad, getting the win against the Ospreys and getting that winning feeling back was important.

"Then for the Scotland guys coming back after the losses with Scotland and with Edinburgh previously, it was great to get a win again. Now we have a taste of that winning feeling again, it will definitely help us to pull together and kick on."

The Heineken Cup is, of course, a substantial step up from Pro12 matches, whatever the opposition, and while there is no real chance of Edinburgh being involved in the knockout stages of either European competition, there is pride to be regained and momentum to be maintained ahead of the festive derbies against Glasgow. "As a team and as individuals, if you get used to something collectively and individually, it does help," Grant said.

"Winning or losing is almost a habit and that is why it is so important to win these close games. Having said that, barring the two Heineken Cup games, we have been in the matches and have picked up a few losing bonus points. I would hope we have turned the corner. If we can keep improving, I have no doubt we will keep climbing."

With Ross Rennie, his rival for the No.7 jersey, out for the medium to long term, Grant has a real chance to get the sort of run of games that could lead to him being talked about as a Scotland contender again, just as he was a couple of seasons ago when he was given the club captaincy.

For all that there seems to be an element of wishful thinking about what it could mean for the competition itself, then, his analysis of the significance of the back-to-back meetings today and next weekend with the French side – Edinburgh beat the Paris team twice in epic encounters last season – is accurate in the wider context.

"It is a huge opportunity for us," Grant said. "We have two games against Racing Metro and, if we win them both, it would be huge for us as a team and potentially for the Heineken Cup group and the season. There is a lot riding on the next two games."

In terms of the competition itself that is debatable but if Edinburgh were to match last season's results against one of the top clubs in France, it would go a long way towards proving to the players, their supporters and the wider world that they are back as a force to be reckoned with for the second half of the season.

kevin ferrie

Edinburgh, embarrassingly "nilled" in their first two Heineken Cup matches, could have fallen apart in October. Some of the subsequent signs, too, were far from good.

Two more defeats followed in the RaboDirect Pro12 – the first at home and the second another heavy beating – while their players formed the nucleus of the Scotland team whose autumn Test failures cost Andy Robinson his job in charge of the national team.

During that campaign there was also the strange, and sad, episode which brought an end to the international career of their most experienced player, Allan Jacobsen.

If Roddy Grant, the former club captain, is to be believed, though, Edinburgh have come through it all individually and collectively strengthened, as demonstrated by the back-to-back PRO12 victories over the Ospreys, the reigning champions, and Connacht which preceded today's meeting with Racing Metro.

"The way we lost those first two [Heineken Cup] games was unacceptable and totally embarrassing for us," the flanker said. "To have no points scored and all those tries against us was hugely disappointing.

"After last year having gone so well, it was a double disappointment. However, the strange thing for people who can't see us all the time is that, even when we were on the losing run, we were still a really tight as a team. There was no bickering.

"Apart from being in a dark place because of the losses, we were still really tight and really confident, which is great to be able to say. That has certainly helped us to come out of it and get the two wins. For guys who were not involved in the Scotland squad, getting the win against the Ospreys and getting that winning feeling back was important.

"Then for the Scotland guys coming back after the losses with Scotland and with Edinburgh previously, it was great to get a win again. Now we have a taste of that winning feeling again, it will definitely help us to pull together and kick on."

The Heineken Cup is, of course, a substantial step up from Pro12 matches, whatever the opposition, and while there is no real chance of Edinburgh being involved in the knockout stages of either European competition, there is pride to be regained and momentum to be maintained ahead of the festive derbies against Glasgow. "As a team and as individuals, if you get used to something collectively and individually, it does help," Grant said.

"Winning or losing is almost a habit and that is why it is so important to win these close games. Having said that, barring the two Heineken Cup games, we have been in the matches and have picked up a few losing bonus points. I would hope we have turned the corner. If we can keep improving, I have no doubt we will keep climbing."

With Ross Rennie, his rival for the No.7 jersey, out for the medium to long term, Grant has a real chance to get the sort of run of games that could lead to him being talked about as a Scotland contender again, just as he was a couple of seasons ago when he was given the club captaincy.

For all that there seems to be an element of wishful thinking about what it could mean for the competition itself, then, his analysis of the significance of the back-to-back meetings today and next weekend with the French side – Edinburgh beat the Paris team twice in epic encounters last season – is accurate in the wider context.

"It is a huge opportunity for us," Grant said. "We have two games against Racing Metro and, if we win them both, it would be huge for us as a team and potentially for the Heineken Cup group and the season. There is a lot riding on the next two games."

In terms of the competition itself that is debatable but if Edinburgh were to match last season's results against one of the top clubs in France, it would go a long way towards proving to the players, their supporters and the wider world that they are back as a force to be reckoned with for the second half of the season.

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